TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— After a couple of weeks at No. 2, Alabama football earned the top spot in the third installment of the College Football Playoff rankings that were released on Tuesday.
Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Auburn rounded out the top six. The final rankings will be released on Dec. 3.
Alabama and Auburn face each other in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25 to decide the SEC West champion and who will play Georgia in the conference championship game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.
Georgia, which dropped to No. 7, was among five SEC teams in the rankings, including No. 16 Mississippi State and No. 20 LSU.
Alabama possessed the ball for 7:57 in the first half. Less than 8 minutes.
That’s essentially why the game was as tight as it was. Alabama’s offense couldn’t sustain drives. Lucky for the Crimson Tide, they were able to hit on some big plays to put up enough points.
It also was important that the Crimson Tide didn’t turn the ball over Saturday night.
With Alabama’s running game struggling through three quarters, the passing attack picked up things.
Calvin Ridley had a monster night, catching 5 passes for 171 yards. Jalen Hurts accounted for 282 yards and 2 total touchdown, including the game winner to freshman DeVonta Smith. The 26-yard touchdown reception was Smith’s only catch of the game.
Alabama’s run game did enough, particularly in the fourth quarter, to keep things somewhat balanced. There is plenty for the offense to clean up this week, especially along the offensive line.
It’s fair to expect Alabama to struggle with all of the linebackers out, but as Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has said, “that’s no excuse to fail.”
The most concerning thing is how well Mississippi State just ran up the middle. It looked like Alabama’s defensive line was getting pushed around in the trenches.
Mississippi State didn’t complete a ton of passes, but Alabama’s secondary was out of place at times.
In all, Mississippi State racked up 330 yards of offense. Credit to Mississippi State’s offensive staff for that game plan. They took the air out of the ball, and played keep away from Alabama’s offense. It almost worked.
What’s next for Alabama football?
Alabama hosts Mercer on Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET on the SEC Network.
This week against Mercer should provide Alabama with some time to clean up its mistakes. The young linebackers should see more reps to see how they respond to live action.
After that, it’ll be make-or-break time for the Crimson Tide. The Iron Bowl against Auburn will serve as a winner-take-and-all contest for the SEC West Division. If Alabama wins that, it must then take care of business against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Before this past Saturday, many would have said that Georgia would be Alabama’s toughest test, but after watching Auburn smack Georgia around, the Iron Bowl is back on top.
Not to look ahead, but Alabama’s path to the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive year is pretty clear: win and you’re in.